Lizard Brain is a shared blog about Science Fiction and Fantasy from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

Giving Birth

by Ty Franck

Depending on your particular process, books start out in a lot of different ways. For some writers they begin as a moment, one particular scene that leaps into their head fully formed. George RR Martin has often said that the entire Ice and Fire saga began with the scene of Ned Stark and his boys finding the dire wolf pups.

I know writers who always begin from the end. They have their climactic scene in mind, and they work backwards from there to figure out why those people are in that situation. I myself have written three short stories that began with nothing more than a title I found evocative.

Daniel and I begin with five acts, and a vague chapter outline.

But not matter what your process is, there is this moment where the story stops being a thing you are trying to hammer into a recognizable shape, and comes to life. It begins telling you what it’s supposed to be. It fights back when you’re doing it wrong. It flows like water when you’re doing it right. After all the pushing and heavy breathing, something fully formed starts to appear. You know, intellectually, that you made it. But it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like it was always there just waiting for you to find it.

The storytelling water broke today on book #3 of The Expanse series. This was not a painless process. We’d been hammering at this thing for months, now, looking for the book. We knew the major plot points. We knew who the characters were. We knew everything except what the book was about. And believe me, you can NOT write a book until you know what it’s about. And what a book is about is never the plot. The plot is a skeleton on which meaning can hang, but if your plot is the meaning, you’ve failed I think.

So, today, a chapter stood up and said, “I’m wrong. Fix me.” And during a discussion about how to fix that one moment, just four paragraphs long, the rest of the book fell into place. It’s kind of awe inspiring to watch it happen. I’m a rationalist and a materialist. I am the last person to assign supernatural qualities to anything. But there is something in the act of creating stories that feels a tad mystical. I suspect that it’s when your subconscious mind and conscious mind finally agree on something, and everything clicks into place. But the feeling is definitely that the process isn’t entirely under your control anymore.

But, today, for the first time, I started to think this third book can be great.

I’m finally excited to write it.


Podcastle, Balfour & Meriwether

by Daniel Abraham

It was the third of December in 188-, and snow swirled down grey and damp upon the cobblestones of London. Meriwether paced before the wide window of the King Street flat impatiently. Balfour sat before the roaring fire, correcting a draft monograph he had written on the subject of Asiatic hand combat as adapted to the English frame.

I cannot understand how you can be so devilishly placid,” Meriwether said at last.

“Practice,” Balfour grunted.

“Every winter it’s the same,” Meriwether said, gesturing at the falling snow. “The darkness comes earlier, the cold drives men from the roads, and I have this…stirring. This unutterable restlessness. The winter traps me, my friend. It holds me captive.”

If you missed the original story on Subterranean, you can now listen to it at Podcastle.



by Daniel Abraham

James S. A. Corey has earned both a Hottie and an Unexpected Surprise. Because I have just finished rewatching Dodgeball, I can say nothing else about this without the risk of saying something I will later regret.

My kindergarten-age daughter has not seen the film, but does sometimes spontaneously say “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.”  Ah, the things they pick up in daycare…


Do you like cheap things? We have a cheap thing for you.

by Ty Franck

In a Crazy Eddie level price slashing move, Orbit has decided to sell a number of their e-book titles for $2.99 for a limited time.  One of those titles is Leviathan Wakes.  What makes this madness even more. . . mad, is that the e-book of Leviathan Wakes also contains a FREE copy of the ARC of Dragon’s Path.  That’s TWO books for $2.99, delivered right to your e-reader of choice!  That’s over 350,000 words of slam bang entertainment for less than a penny per thousand!  If you aren’t already buying one, you must be crazier than Orbit is.


Barnes & Noble

Note: the new price has already shown up at Amazon, but we expect it to roll out to all the other e-book sites in the very near future.

Update:  Ok, it looks like the promo officially starts tomorrow, and we’ll have more links to additional e-book sites then.  Looks like Amazon went a little early . . .

Update again:  Here is a link to the full list of e-retailers that have the discounted books.


That day

by Daniel Abraham

Joyeux noel, y’all.


Random Stuff About Ty

by Ty Franck

Here I am interviewed by the center of the writing universe (seriously, this woman knows everyone) Emily Mah.  I mostly natter on about nonsense, but there’s a lovely picture of Jen Taylor, famous video game voice and TV/Movie actress, hugging on me.  So it’s worth checking out just for that.


Ignite New Mexico: Adapting Game of Thrones

by Daniel Abraham

So a little while back, my buddy Cameron told me about this gig he’s part of here in Albuquerque called Ignite New Mexico.  Every so often folks get together and spend an evening doing presentations to one another.  The talks are five minutes long (no longer) on the theory that even if the talk sucks, something else interesting will be along in a minute.  I was in the first part of the Game of Thrones comic book adaptation, and so I did a (very) brief rundown of how that process works and what some of the challenges were coming into it.

We came out with something like this:


Paying Tribute: Starship Troopers

by Ty Franck

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while.  Write a series of book reviews of the books that had the most direct influence on my writing, and on The Expanse series in particular.  Hopefully, this is just the first.

Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein:

Starship Troopers moved onto my nightstand a couple of days ago.  I always have a nightstand book, and it tends to be something I’ve read before.  I’ll read a few pages while my wife does her pre-bed puttering, and I need something I can easily put down when the lights go out.  If it’s a new book and it has really grabbed me, it’s harder to stop reading.

So I’ve been going back through Starship Troopers a few pages at a time, and it’s been really informative re-reading this classic of military SF after having now written two novels that include elements of military SF.

Continue reading ›


Concerning the Charitable Assumption of Madness

by Daniel Abraham

I choose not to believe in free will as a courtesy to my friends — Walter Jon Williams

I’ve had a few conversations in the past few days about men behaving badly.  One was a conversation about Frank Miller’s opinion of the Occupy movement.  Another was a private post about sexual harassment at conventions.  Another was an exhumation of an infamous incident involving a famous science fiction author and editor that no one would benefit by being too specific about.  Suffice it to say he was an ass in public and everybody knew it.

What they all had in common was the assertion that someone — Frank Miller, the author and editor, a population of sexually inappropriate fans — were mentally ill.  This wasn’t done by a mental health professional, or even by folks who had experience with mental illness in their own lives.  It was done as an act of charity.  Given the behavior of the person in question, the kindest thing we having the conversation could come up with was that he was not merely mentally ill, but in fact so mentally compromised that he was no longer responsible for his actions.  That he was, functionally, no longer human.

The alternative was that, with a sane mind and will intact, he’d chosen to behave that way.  And agreeing to pretend he was utterly broken seemed kinder than saying was morally responsible for despicable acts.

Medicalizing behavior — talking about brain function and dysfunction — takes it out of a social realm and put it into the domain of science.  And I *love* science.  It think it’s the most powerful, interesting, beautiful invention humanity has ever created.  It’s a system of thought that has more wonders than the best imagination.  But as it stands right now, there’s no room in the Western reductionist model for will or choice.

That’s all right.  We’ve had all kinds of experience in science where there were experiences and data that didn’t fit the model.  We’re used to working with best-fit models that we all know aren’t quite right, but we don’t have anything better yet.

So, for some of us (myself included), when we see someone doing something inexcusable and we still want to like them, it’s tempting to fall into that model and say that there are a lot of guys with Asperger’s Syndrome in fandom.  Or that the anoxic brain injuries that often come with heart surgery can lead to impaired judgement and poor impulse control.  Or that anyone who’d say crap like that is clearly having some kind of Charlie Sheen-esque manic episode.  I know I’m tempted.  And the more I think about it, the less comfortable I am with it.

The problem is that I have two ways of evaluating behavior:  one that includes will and agency, and one that doesn’t. There are certainly instances when brains do malfunction so spectacularly that holding people to the usual standard is unrealistic.  I have no trouble at all crediting people’s good acts to them, but when someone’s behaving badly, I want to shift to the other model to let them off the hook.  I don’t consider what I’m saying about all the people diagnosed with Aspergers who aren’t sexually predatory, all the functioning schizophrenics who aren’t shooting congresswomen, all the people with brain injuries who put tremendous time, energy, and attention into respecting social boundaries.  And so I think my charitable impulses lead me to a deeper kind of injustice.


SF Signal Article

by Daniel Abraham

I saw you tonight. You were walking with your cabal from the university to the little bar across the street where the professors and graduate students fraternize. You were in the dark, plain clothes that you think of as elegant. I have always thought they made you look pale. I was at the newsstand. I think that you saw me, but pretended not to. I want to say it didn’t sting.


God, sometimes I amuse myself.

I have a guest post up at SF Signal.  I am very fond of it.